France: Latest working life developments – Q4 2017

Progress in labour law reform, a roadmap for the transformation of apprenticeships and the merger of the two mandatory supplementary pension schemes are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in France in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Completion of first phase of labour law reform

The ratification by the National Assembly at its first reading of the first five ordinances on the reform of the labour code was met with mixed reactions from the social partners. Deputies have made changes to many provisions and the text will be considered by the Senate from 23 January 2018 onwards. The government also adopted all the implementing decrees allowing the entry into force of the reform.

Decree No. 2017-1386 of 29 December 2017 provides all the necessary information to enable companies to merge various information and consultation bodies into one single body composed of elected employees – the ‘social and economic committee’. The latter may, contrary to the French tradition of social relations, negotiate collective agreements. The government managed to implement these reforms without much opposition, as the trade unions that had criticised the entire reform were unable to organise common action against it.

Launch of second part of the labour market reform

On 12 October 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron launched the second phase of the labour market reform at a meeting with all the social partners. On 25 October, the government unveiled its roadmap for the transformation of apprenticeship, vocational training and unemployment insurance, with the goal of adopting a bill on these three topics before the end of summer 2018.

A consultation on apprenticeships between the representatives of the government, local authorities and the social partners was launched in November with the setting up of thematic working groups. The representatives of the regions, however, left the discussions saying that the regions had lost their prerogative in terms of apprenticeships to the benefit of the sectors. A progress report on the consultation is expected to be released on 25 January 2018.

The social partners have launched a negotiation on vocational training with the aim of getting more of the people who need training the most involved, such as the unemployed and low-qualified employees. At the same time, the social partners, who manage the unemployment insurance scheme, agreed to the government’s request to open new negotiations just six months after reaching an agreement to amend the unemployment insurance scheme for the period from 1 October 2017 to 30 September 2020. On 14 December, the social partners received a guidance document from the government setting out the four axes of the reform:

  • the extension of unemployment insurance to self-employed workers and employees who resign from their job;
  • a campaign against precariousness, with a bonus-malus system to encourage employers to extend the duration of fixed-term contracts and to conclude permanent contracts;
  • closer monitoring of unemployed people to ensure that they are seeking work;
  • governance of unemployment insurance.

Negotiation sessions are scheduled until 15 February.

Retirement, social protection and financial participation

The social partners reached an agreement on the merger of the two mandatory supplementary pension schemes – AGIRC (Association générale des institutions de retraite complémentaire des cadres; supplementary retirement scheme for managers) and ARRCO (Association pour le régime de retraite complémentaire des salaries; supplementary pension scheme for all employees) – to provide a unified regime on 1 January 2019.

In terms of working conditions, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council issued a report on new forms of self-employment in November 2017 calling for improvements in the social protection of self-employed workers, including those working on digital platforms.

The government has also begun a consultation on the reform of financial participation schemes for employees. The aim is to give the greatest number of employees a mechanism for sharing value. Minister of Labour, Muriel Pénicaud, has also asked the trade unions and employers to make proposals aimed at reducing sexual harassment in companies.

Finally, Jean-Paul Delevoye has been appointed as High Commissioner for pension reform to prepare for the launch of a major reform of the pension system.

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